August 20, 2015

What I Learned This Summer: How to Step into the Future.

Photo: Daniel Krieg/Flickr

Not only did springtime bring blossoming trees and the need for rubber boots, but it also marked the start of my long-awaited and glorious year off.

I was beginning my maternity leave two weeks before baby was due. I could hardly wait to leave my mundane job and never return if I could help it.

A week before baby’s due date, I excitedly stumbled upon the announcement for a well-rounded apprenticeship program with elephant journal.

Was the timing perfect or horribly wrong?

Was it a sign that this came up while on my year “off?”

Would I truly have enough time or would this be a bad idea to attempt with a one-month-old?

Did I have what it takes?

Baby decided she needed more time and was eight to 10 days overdue—her departure took two days—this would mean I would have a two-week-old baby once the program started.

So, not only was I going to be attempting the program with a new baby, but I was also going to be recovering from an exhausting labor and delivery. And to add a real twist to our life, we were trying to relocate to a new city upon my husband’s promotion.

I told myself that this could be my future.

I decided after a laboring decision that applying for the program was the first important step of many in my summer of self-discovery where I would grow into a content and much-improved version of myself.

Step 1: Trust Timing.

Was it ironic that a few days after starting my maternity leave, an opportunity like this presented itself?

In a few short months, I would need to be deciding whether to go back to work or not. I was starting a new beginning with a new baby, a new house and a new city. Why not take the first step towards a new career to round things out?

Sure, I would have a baby to keep alive and yes, that would definitely be a full-time job. I decided to trust that the timing was right for me. Maybe this mindful focus would even help with postpartum depression. Spoiler alert: it definitely did!

As I neared completion of the program, I submitted another application to elephant journal for a Teaching Assistant position. I trusted that the timing would be right and received affirmation when they offered me one of four positions.

Step 2: Take Risks.

I told myself that it was time to take a risk. After all, if I didn’t put myself out there, how would I reach my goals?

I put myself out there repeatedly throughout the entire program. Writing assignments were the biggest risk for me.

I risked being rejected, I risked being laughed at, I risked bruising my pride and, scariest of all, I risked being vulnerable.

I wasn’t one to easily expose my heart to those close to me, now I had to with a whole parade of strangers—and eventually the public.

My most vulnerable moments turned out to be the most successful. This was the ultimate risk, I found my words at three a.m. were the most raw and real. Never forced. I started to learn to recognize that three a.m. self and coax it into the daylight.

Step 3: Trust the Signs.

The acceptance email was my first sign that this could be a positive endeavor. I was given signs throughout the entire program that this was right for me.

I found myself drawn to my computer, once baby was sleeping, to settle in and do my work. My days were filled with eureka moments for article ideas. This was new to me; I used to look forward to leaving work at work. My excitement to write and thoughts about my apprenticeship duties throughout my day was a major sign that I was on the right path.

My articles were getting great feedback and were actually reaching people. This had to be a sign that my words were eloquent enough to evoke conversation.

I stopped using my favorite emoji—a shocked face and gun—which implied “shoot me” while conversing with loved ones. My newfound contentedness in motherhood along with a daily focus that invigorated me left me with little to complain about. This was a literal sign that things were improving in my life.

Another sign, this time neon, flashed when I was accepted out of 16 applicants to be a Teaching Assistant.

Step 4: Find Adventure Out My Doorstep.

Before baby, I had spent many summers traveling to new countries. I knew I would no longer be able to take multiple weeks traveling without my baby. I made a conscious decision to shift my perspective and instead of thinking of motherhood as something that was going to chain me down, I could treat it as an adventure in itself.

I was discovering my baby and who I was as a mother. Every day was unique and my daughter was changing drastically. Learning her needs and figuring each other out was an adventure.

The apprenticeship program was also proving to be an adventure, as it fed my creative side. Meeting assignment deadlines became an exciting challenge; increasing reach and connecting with followers was rewarding.

I was developing, growing and discovering, much like when we were exploring a new culture on one of our many backpacking adventures.

Step 5: Make Multi-Tasking Mindful.

Life with a two-week-old was beyond chaotic. A bruised tailbone during delivery made sitting very painful. I eventually took my “desk” to the couch, which was much more comfortable than balancing on a bar stool while nursing my daughter. Soon, we settled into a calm routine during meetings, which said a lot, as we were rarely at home during the entire summer.

My favorite motherhood mantra, “this cannot last forever,” got me through many meetings frantically trying to catch up and meeting deadlines while my baby was fussing.

Multi-tasking became the norm for us. I no longer had a panic attack whenever a meeting neared. The calmness throughout our day extended into meetings and writing assignments. I had mastered one-handed typing while nursing. Laughing at those challenging times relieved some of the anxiety.

Step 6: Find a Space for My Ego.

After receiving our assignments and understanding our goals, it took a good month before I lost my competitive edge. I wanted to be the best, reach the most on my Facebook page and write the best article. The moment I checked my ego and realized that competing was not the answer to success in this situation, I started to enjoy myself a lot more.

Once I encouraged others and accepted that we were all there to help each other grow, I noticed an improvement in my writing. Words flowed easier, editing happened more seamlessly and I was starting to settle into a mindful state.

Step 7: Bask in My New Self.

Throughout the three month apprenticeship, I truly discovered my new self. I enjoyed using my free time to write as my heart pleased. I had read more articles than I would have ever been able to before, which helped me be more mindful. I regularly came out of a session at my computer high on life.

It was encouraging and promising.

It hasn’t been all sunshine and puppies, as I’ve had a lot of frustrated moments. I’ve utilized my burst of midnight energy to complete most of my apprenticeship duties. I’ve managed to giggle at the clock at two a.m. remembering how in the past I only would have seen that hour while out with friends and the energy would be in liquid alcohol form. Waking without a hangover has been a welcomed shift in this summer of late nights.

Taking the risk to dive into this unfamiliar world and putting myself out there to trust in the timing was a fulfilling and growing experience. The adventure of discovering motherhood and my writing voice has been rewarding. This experience has taught me how to be vulnerable, to trust my instincts and to help others reach their potential.

I’m so excited to take what I’ve learned this summer and help others discover their new self in the fall as I take on my next adventure as a Teaching Assistant.


Author: Jaimee Guenther

Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Daniel Krieg/Flickr

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